Chain Reaction Cycles’ economy enduro bike has had a significantly lighter carbon upgrade for 2016, addressing a key issue with the alloy original. The geometry has been tweaked too, but the price is still keen.
Much of the weight loss comes from switching the mainframe to a high-quality Toray T700/800 carbon construction. The Sommet CR has a bolt-on belly guard and internal cable routing, and by limiting it to single-ring use, Vitus has been able to thicken the BB shell to combat stretch and squeak.
The split seat tube allows a ‘floating’ shock mounting for consistently excellent, setup tolerant suspension control Andy Lloyd
The back end is still alloy but pivots on a 15mm axle, with adjustable collet bearings and a 142x12mm axle. The RockShox Monarch Plus shock ‘floats’ between the linkage and extended chainstay tips to provide 155mm (6.1in) of smooth travel, and while the Sommet CR isn’t particularly long, there is an an XL option.
The Vitus’s transmission is directly comparable with that of the similarly priced YT Capra Comp, which we tested at the same time. But when you start looking at forks, brakes and wheels there are some small but significant economy measures. Production bikes will also come with a non-remote Brand-X Ascent dropper post instead of a RockShox Reverb. It’s still an impressively light and responsive complete package though.
Having spent hours trying to find the suspension sweet spot on other longer-travel bikes, the super-tolerant set-up of the Vitus was sheer bliss. Whether we were tackling boulder-spine black runs that make you feel like you’re riding a washing machine down metal stairs on some bikes, grunting up knee bursting, stalling speed switchback climbs or slamming into the belly of G-out berms, we never even thought about the suspension, which just got on with the job exactly how we wanted it done.
While you need to keep your wits about you when riding it, there’s no doubting this bike’s playfully addictive character Andy Lloyd
We occasionally checked it was using the appropriate amount to deliver its high-traction but never mushy ride, but apart from initial sag and damping setup we never had to tweak the air pressure.
If you like a softer, smoother feel keep the shock fully open. For firmer feedback and higher riding poise, flick it into the ‘pedal’ setting. You can even slap it into ‘locked’ mode for long climbs if you want, but there’s none of the nauseous nod or power-sapping softness that make this essential on some bikes.
In fact, one of the most pleasant aspects of the Vitus is how fast and efficient it feels on climbs and flat sections. This combines with the poised suspension and low-slung frame to give it an infectious pop-and-hop playfulness that guarantees big grins.
The cockpit is far from being cramped, but neither are the numbers aggressively long Andy Lloyd
Dropping the Sommet 10mm lower has made a big improvement to the sense of trail connection, but the front centre and top tube/reach lengths are still average rather than aggressively long. Its suspension smoothness, stable head angle and grippy front tyre kept it feeling confident and impressively quick on the stopwatch – as long as we stayed on. If that sounds like a slight warning, then you’re right.
As much as it’s great fun and easy to go fast on, there are cumulative control issues that you need to be aware of. The floppy-carcassed Light/High Grip WTB Vigilante front tyre, the simpler damping internals of the Pike RC fork, the fractionally less rich modulation of the Guide R rather than RS brakes and the slight softness of the mainframe can all blur the limits just enough to cause problems.
As a result, the Vitus occasionally dumped us on the floor or left us with bloody knuckles – this is a bike you need to make sure you get the measure of. As an overall package it’s still a huge amount of surprisingly versatile, flat out fun for the money though.